1. The Old Woman, the Stag, and Me

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We lived harmoniously for some years; the old woman, the stag and me. We took a small castle on the hill for our own. I say small when it was tiny really, with just one room on each of its four floors, but it was enough for us.

The old woman took the lower floor, beneath the receiving hall which was at ground level. Being underground, it was the most spacious of the rooms, so much so that it housed a swimming pool at the centre of beautiful chapel-like architecture. There were six pillars around the pool, and an altar facing east. It was always lit in such a way that it felt grandiose, yet soft and homely all at once. The old woman was wizened, and wore thick black robes and a veil that made her terrifying in appearance if she was in a bad mood. Her moods used to hang around the whole castle like a thick fog, and we had to open all the windows lest it might get onto our lungs. We could hardly blame her for it though, given all that she had seen. It was the dark side of her immense wisdom, which to her credit she most often used with the care and compassion of a loving grandparent.

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